Mental Health, Beer & My Brain

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week. Honestly, every week should bring awareness to an illness that so many of us struggle with.

Mental health has always been a constant battle for me, and so many others, that goes in waves (okay… sometimes huge, steep cliffs). I first struggled with mental health at age 7 when I went through a pretty major surgery; from that point on, I struggled with my dark and twisty mind- doctors who wanted to prescribe more and more drugs, therapists that were both amazing and… absolutely terrible and leading to alcohol that seemed to help me forget but also helped to provide a blanket of excuses and haze.

I’ve built my entire career and life around the beer industry since college and even moved to California to pursue an industry I thought I would live & die by. And here I sit feeling terrified, scared and lost. A passion I have chased the past few years has become detrimental to my well being, safety and… well, my sanity.

“Okay, what the f*ck is she talking about??”

Do you guys remember the article from Morning Advertiser with Shaun Hill? If you haven’t read about his take on mental health in the beer world, check it out here! The article really struck something in me; I’ve felt that for years I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

I started drinking at the age of 15 (sorry, Mom & Dad). I hung out with people way older than me that made drinking way too accessible and acceptable. It was a form of medicine for me that helped me forget about that dark cloud looming over my head and just have “fun” with my “friends” (turns out most of those people sucked so… good job Anna!!).

Over the past few years, I’ve hardly gone more than a single day  without drinking. Working at taprooms/breweries and writing about beer gave me that excuse to drink at least one beer a day. And let’s be honest… it NEVER was just one beer. Next thing I know it would the next day and I’d be feeling like a trash human. The black outs seemed to increase as my consumption became more consistent. Pretty recently, even if I drank a few beers (and didn’t get drunk) I’d wake up hardly remembering my evening. Sure, my childhood surgery had a huge impact on my memory and we have no idea how alcohol can affect brain injuries, but something just isn’t adding up. I was choosing to ignore my body and consume something that it clearly didn’t want anything to do with.

When you’re in the alcohol industry, it’s so easy to be a closet alcoholic.

No way am I saying that Every. Single. Person. In the industry is an alcoholic. I know plenty of people who don’t drink excessively or even every day, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t struggling with it. It’s so much easier to justify your drinking habits when everyone else around you is drinking the same amount.

Oh, I blacked out last night?! Well! So did all my buds so I’M FINE!!

No. I’m not fine.

I said I’ve been feeling like my relationship with alcohol has been a bit rocky for years… and I really do mean that. Any time I would do something stupid I would blame it on the alcohol, distance myself from the people I was around, beat myself up and then… DO NOTHING ABOUT IT. Seriously! I would shake my head and blame alcohol and promise to never drink that much again. But guess what? It would happen again. And again. And… probably again.

I felt like I was doing pretty damn good for moving to California just one year ago; I told myself I was happy and that the tiny road bumps weren’t anything to do with me. “These things happen to everyone” *as she grabs a beer and chugs it.*

Recently, I took it a little too far with my drinking. Without going in to too many details, I put myself in a pretty dumb situation (don’t worry you guys, everything is all good) and that shook me pretty damn good.

I’ll be four weeks alcohol-free on Sunday the 14th.

Am I done drinking forever? I couldn’t tell you that, I have no idea what the future holds. I have no idea if I can ever have a healthy relationship with alcohol. I don’t know if I can ever drink socially, or feel comfortable having just ONE drink without wanting 100.

What I do know? Dealing with my loneliness, my mental health and being comfortable in my own skin is a whole lot easier without a hangover. I don’t feel the need to have a beer (but hey, I do miss my HenHouse Oatmeal Porter) nor is it uncomfortable being around friends who are enjoying an alcohol.

Now I’m almost 28 and having to learn how to have actual HOBBIES, other than weight lifting, that are… productive? Do I make birdhouses? Do I start knitting? WHAT DO SOBER PEOPLE EVEN DO?? Because I’ve been binge watching Grey’s Anatomy for the 600th time and feel like I can totally step in as Derek Shepard and perform brain surgery.

If you feel like drinking a soda water and skipping the alcohol?

Do you, boo boo.

If you feel like alcohol needs to take a backseat?

Take a second to focus on what your body really needs.

Someone pressuring you to drink or making fun of you?

Punch them in the throat, darling.

Seriously. I never thought I would be made fun of for not drinking. Uh, sorry I want all the muscles and a little more money in my pocket.

Also, pro tip: your skin looks hella better when you chuggin’ that h2o and not them booze!

Also also I got a puppy so if this isn’t a quarter life crisis I don’t know what is.

 

Cheers Xx

7 thoughts on “Mental Health, Beer & My Brain

  1. Dan says:

    Good for you! Do what you gotta do! My hobbies, other than making and drinking beer are volleyball, hiking, biking, and reading (sometimes).

  2. Jasmine says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your words resonated so hard with me. As a just-turned 27 year old feeling the quarter-life-crisis blues who ALSO took her drinking too far one fateful night about a month ago, I must deal with the shitty consequences. Honestly, I’m glad that I’m being forced to take a good, hard look at myself and not just blame the alcohol for my behavior. I haven’t decided to stop drinking entirely, but I have been taking it very easy on the quantity of drinks I have in one sitting and saying no to outings where the main focus is to drink.

    • 16ounces says:

      So sorry to hear you went through a hard time, too! But it’s also great that we can take a step back and really evaluate our life. Keep up the good work, love!

  3. Marshall says:

    Brewer here. I’m a bit behind as this is the first time I’ve ever read your blog (just not really a blog guy), but I relate to this so much. I also started drinking at a young age with friends who had access to alcohol, developed an unhealthy relationship with it, and had taken my first “break from drinking” at 15 after realizing how much I was struggling with depression. When college came around I was blacking out 3-4 nights a week. I fell in love with craft beer before I was legal age and started home brewing shortly after I turned 21. 2 years ago I started brewing commercially and while I thought I was finally starting to build a healthy understanding with beer, I’ve been slowly slipping further and further into a pit. Yesterday my work day started with a beer straight out of a fermenter, just to see how it was developing, but I finished the glass. Warm, flat, yeasty. That was followed by 3 beers of the bottling line, a DIPA from a brewery north of us, 2 pints over lunch, another pint a few hours later, CBS from Founders, a coffee lager, 2 of our barrel aged stouts, then I drove home and had 2 more beers with supper. And I realized as I was sitting in a daze on my couch that this wasn’t abnormal for me. That I had been doing this regularly. This morning I woke up and had a shitty hungover workout like usual, and I’m really sitting here contemplating taking another break. Alcoholism in the beer industry is real, and most don’t even realize they’re there until it’s too late. I hope things get better for you and props to you for taking the initiative to get there. Cheers!

    • 16ounces says:

      It’s so easy to slip in to drinking way too much. I work for one hell of a bad ass brewery and am constantly around the dangerously tasty things we brew weekly. I just gotta remind myself where I’m at and where I want to be physically and emotionally.

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